CR 32:35-47 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/cr032035

Relationships between NW flow snowfall and topography in the Southern Appalachians, USA

L. Baker Perry1,2,*, Charles E. Konrad2

1Department of Geography and Planning, Box 32066, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina 28608, USA
2Department of Geography, CB# 3220, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA

ABSTRACT: NW flow snowfall (NWFS) events are common occurrences at higher elevations (1500 to >2000 m a.s.l.) and on windward slopes in the Southern Appalachian Mountain region of the southeastern USA. The spatial patterns of NWFS are strongly controlled by topography, resulting in pronounced spatial variability. The strong topographic and low-level convective forcing, coupled with low temperatures and strong winds, increases societal impacts. This paper analyzes the relationships between NWFS and various topographic and geographic (TOPO/GEOG) variables in the Southern Appalachians. We identified NWFS events on the basis of low-level wind direction, extracted values for the TOPO/GEOG variables from Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), and developed statistical relationships between NWFS and the TOPO/GEOG variables. Using a multivariate regression model and GIS techniques, we also mapped mean annual NWFS across the region. Results indicate that elevation and NW exposure are most strongly correlated with NWFS; however, the strength of these relationships is mediated by temperature. In the colder NWFS events, the relative importance of elevation is diminished, while NW exposure and distance to a NW slope are relatively more important. Additionally, we demonstrate that multivariate regression modeling in conjunction with GIS techniques can be an effective way to map snowfall patterns associated with specific wind directions, particularly when a strong topographic control is evident.

KEY WORDS: Topographic influences · NW flow snowfall · Southern Appalachian Mountains

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